The field of thirty-two has now been trimmed to eight and three of my magnificent five are still alive. Brazil, Argentina and Spain have all pushed forward with attacks that well … push forward.
Spain and Brazil have work to do if they are to meet in the final.
Brazil will face my lone remaining danger team, the Netherlands. My other two dark horses, Portugal and France, are gone. France exited without threatening anyone, or anything, except their own national pride. Portugal had a good run, making it through the group of death, but bowed out to Spain. Their 1-0 loss reveals the hazard of deferring to your superstar. One bad game and you’re done.
Another team that deserves mention is Japan. With Africa hosting, Europe and South America dominant on the field and the U.S. winning their group, Asia was an afterthought in the field of sixteen. Japan nearly changed that. They came one errant penalty kick away from breaking into the quarterfinals. Honda was a revelation, reaffirming one of my greatest attractions to this eclectic event which commences every forty-eight months, the chance to see brilliance from a relatively unheralded player. His assist in the final group match was at least as impressive as any goal.
Speaking of goals, I would have to say the Tevez blast from outside the box was my favorite so far.
The Final Eight as I see it.
Uruguay vs. Ghana: Although Uruguay won their group they could be considered the underdog when facing Ghana. Ghana’s strength is their strength, especially in midfield, and they will own the crowd. A victory by either team will place them in the semifinals as the clear Cinderella of 2010.
Brazil vs. Netherlands: The best matchup of the quarterfinals, the winner has an inside track to the championship. The Dutch are playing magnificent team ball and a victory would erase many past disappointments for the orange. Brazil has been dominant and would love to be defending the cup when they host in four years. If they play Ghana in the semifinals it will be a rematch from the knockout stage of 2006. It will also be a showcase for the two best holding midfields in the tournament (even with Essien out for Ghana).
Argentina vs. Germany: Another great matchup between traditional powers. Germany has done well so far, despite their youth. The underwhelming performance put on against them by England was a gift they should not expect to be repeated by Argentina. Tevez and Messi present a level of talent they have not yet seen in the tournament.
Paraguay vs. Spain: Once again, Spain finds itself at the doorstep, but if they wish to break through, they best not look past this fixture to the winner of Argentina/Germany. Paraguay’s defense will be less stout than Portugal, but their counter attacks will be more potent.
The plate for a football feast.
There are several scenarios remaining for the final, including an all South American or all European match. Africa could crown its first ever champion. The Netherlands or Spain could erase their perpetual also-ran status. No matter what happens, one thing is certain. Four tasty games are on the menu.